Bathrooms, Before and After

Memories and Meaning: A Bathroom Renovation in Denver’s Park Hill Neighborhood

This client lives in a 1939 bungalow in Denver’s historic Park Hill neighborhood.  She has lived in this house since she was 12 years old and adores the charm of the home and the character of it.  The home also carries meaning for her.  “My mom told me stories of Park Hill being one of two communities where people of color could actually purchase and own a home,” she said.  “There was no way I wasn’t going to buy it from her when she had a life change and wanted to move.” Her mom ended up moving across the street and she and her daughter are a part of Denver history in a neighborhood that led the way for racial integration in the 1960’s.

Park Hill was an affluent, whites only neighborhood up until 1960, but with wealth and forward-thinking realtors, African Americans began purchasing homes in the neighborhood.  “It was of the utmost prestige to cross Colorado Blvd. as an African American,” Denver historian and author Phil Goodstein writes.  For more on this subject, here’s a great article entitled “Park Hill’s Historic Struggle for Integration.

The client and her husband took on a huge basement renovation early in their marriage and lived in the home during the renovation with two small children – this experience put a huge damper on any other home improvements and they waited on the major renovations for a time when the kids were older.

Here the family bathroom when I first saw it:

vintage bathroom before

“I adore this old house and many of the old characteristics that come with it, but much of what was in the bathroom from 1939 did not fit our family.”  The homeowner loves a vintage look, but was tired of this vintage look.  Her key piece for the bathroom renovation centered around this gorgeous, vintage style wall-mount sink by Kohler.

vintage utility sink bathroom
Kohler’s double Brockway sink. (Photo Source)

Besides being a pretty piece of plumbing, it’s a double faucet so two family members can use it at the same time.  It also clears up floor space in an already tight space.

“The vintage green tile I actually could have lived with but when you have a old house it becomes problematic with any repairs because you can’t find matches and having mis-matched tile was not an option for me.”  She had never liked the vanity as it didn’t function for them and it took up a lot of space in the room.   There were no tears shed when that came out.

orange pink and black tile
Our tile selections at the local tile shop (Denver’s Floor Club).

The homeowner originally wanted a black and white patterned floor tile (when you live with green for 37 years, I think your first instinct is to veer away from color).  However, when we met at a tile shop in town, the endless parade of black, gray and white selections were incredibly uninspiring.  We poked around in a back room where there was a new shipment of tile just in (moths to a flame) and found these colorful, patterned tiles from Somer Tile and immediately started charging around the showroom, enthused with our find.

Let’s note this:  If you’re not excited about your home finishes, don’t buy them.   Keep looking until you find something you feel great about.  I think it is useful to rank them on a scale from 1 to 10.  If it’s not a 9 or a 10 for you, don’t spend your money on it.

At the beginning of the project, during demo, my client texted me a photo of some exposed brick the guys had uncovered beneath the tile and asked if she should keep it and have them expose the brick on the whole wall.  My fingers could not text back fast enough.

Here are the After photos!

colorful patterned tile bathroom
Colorful, modern and warm. we kept the 1939 wood built-in shelves on the right and how pretty is that original door with the hardware? (Photo by Sara Yoder, Styled by Kristy Oatman for Laura Medicus Interiors)
colorful patterned tile bathroom
We put the black penny rounds in the niche and kept the curved shower rod. Simple white subway in a brick set helps let the brick and patterned tile shine.  (Photo by Sara Yoder, Styled by Kristy Oatman for Laura Medicus Interiors)

“Home is where one starts from.” – T.S. Eliot


















12 thoughts on “Memories and Meaning: A Bathroom Renovation in Denver’s Park Hill Neighborhood”

  1. This is adorable. Love it. The tiny tile in the bathtub inset shelves is such a great accent. I love the new sink, but will admit that I think the original vanity was too cool.
    All the Best,

  2. What a wonder story…and great collaboration of trust, respect and beauty. Perfect choice of decorator, that to me is of interest. How she chose you for this project? That sink is truly inspiring!
    Thank you

    1. Hi Marie, I’m absolutely sure in most homeowner’s worlds it is a major renovation! I am speaking as a designer; in my little world “major” is adding a bathroom where there is not one, moving walls, moving plumbing – that sort of thing. I don’t get hired a lot for bathrooms where people are just replacing existing things. Homeowners tend to want a designer’s help for a larger renovation. 🙂

  3. Love the colors! What did you do on the right side of the tub by the toilet? Most alcove tubs are open on 3 sides. Curious to what you put over there. Thank you. 🙂

    1. This was something we struggled with! There are two-sided tubs available but we didn’t have room for them and the client wanted air jets. The contractor built a shallow casing around the tub on the open side and tiled it. We went around and round with the tubs available though!!

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